Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums
For many, the flower which conjures up summer more than any other is the rose, and it is no surprise that this quintessentially English flower frequently tops the list as the nation’s favourite bloom. With a plethora of species and hybrids from which to choose, the gardener is spoilt for choice when selecting the ideal rose for their own garden. Not only are we faced with a range of colours from white and cream through to deep burgundy and shades of blue, but also with a choice of forms, ranging from vigorous bush to carpeting and climbing; scented; species or hybrid; traditional or modern; and fruit bearing or not.
There are many gardens which incorporate roses, all of which act as a source of inspiration for the gardener. While soaking up the spectacle and heady aroma of a rose garden, how many of us pause to consider the origin of this popular flower? In our own Rose Garden here at the Botanic Garden, the display is arranged to present the complex history of the garden rose.
Much of the history and development of the rose was carried out here in the Garden by Charles Hurst the 1930’s. The Rose Garden was subsequently designed in the 1980’s by the renowned horticulturist, Graham Stuart Thomas, to demonstrate Hurst’s work. Starting with ancestral European roses, the beds chart the history of extensive hybridisation of European and Chinese species roses. These have given rise to many of the garden roses with which we are now so familiar.
Our Rose Garden includes a diverse range of plants, from the European species such as Rosa gallica, through to Chinese introductions such as the impressive, mound-forming R. soulieana. R. ‘Burgundy Ice’ is a selection of a modern floribunda; ‘Felicite et Perpetue’, among others, represents the climbing roses; and ‘Graham Thomas’, provides an example of the modern English Rose. The Rose Garden, with its history, diversity of form, colour and season of interest, combined with herbaceous underplantings and heady scent, brings a reminder not only of the typical English country garden, but also of the valuable role of research and hybridisation in our gardens. Whatever your reason for including roses in the garden, now is the time to enjoy them at their best.
Sally Petitt, Head of Horticulture, Cambridge University Botanic Garden